Monthly Archives: September 2013

Joy of plums


Things I removed from the attic:

empty boxes
a Really Useful length of wood
anonymous plastic chunks
two duvets
a desk lamp
Tom Lehrer’s complete songs
a prize-winning essay
the ugliest jug you have never seen (and you are definitely never going to see it)
lecture notes on human biology
some brand new cushions which shouldn’t be there at all
a Biggles book

Coughing dustily down into the kitchen, I found some really excellent Victorias which a prevenient intuition led me to buy earlier.




National Theatre live broadcast:  Othello.  It’s always a bit of a panto, with the audience, if they are engaged at all, longing to shout ‘look behind you!’  This one seemed excessively theatrical in the big screen close-ups, and perhaps too frenetic, but of course the actors still have to project to the very back of the physical auditorium for the live audience, regardless of the cameras.  Evidently there were some problems with sound and microphones, with lines occasionally muffled and the crunching of clothes and impedimenta rather too obvious.  The verse was chopped brutally in speaking it, and personally I find that prosifying Shakespeare makes him less, not more, intelligible.

However, it was a good production. It brought out Iago’s pre-existing jealousy of his own wife; his familiar acquaintance with that vice making it all the easier for him to manipulate Othello.  The modern military setting worked too:  machismo confined in a small hot space, with the civilians, including Desdemona, off-balance and vulnerable among the uniforms.  The almost casual violence of the soldiers frightened the non-combatants, and us.

A number of the character roles were good and Adrian Lester was interesting as Othello, while Rory Kinnear produced a convincing rough-edged Iago.  But I don’t know that anyone could top Emrys James’ 1972 Iago, whose wit and charm made me and the whole audience complicit in the great betrayal:  a really unsettling moral experience.

Made some holes in my scope


A capable neighbour with a full suite of drill bits made  holes in my ten-inch.  A red dot finder now sits securely next to the finder scope.


Last night was the first chance to get everything aligned, and mercifully it was still warm enough to go out in a dressing gown.  By the time I had jiggled the finders, a waning gibbous moon was just rising.  I’ve observed the moon more in first quarter (waxing) phase than in its waning phase, so it looked odd and unfamiliar, and I was bending uncomfortably low to the eyepiece.  The image was swimmy but good, and I scanned the terminator through Serenitatis and Tranquillitatis, crater Vitruvius and its associated highlands catching my eye.

Then I put in my favourite 7mm eyepiece and let myself fall through it to the moon.

You might not want to know about some of this


I picked this out of the bargain bin with an initial belief that it was a detective story.


Of course it isn’t.  I bought it anyway, as I thought it might discuss how forensic science has developed since the war.  It doesn’t.

I would describe it as a war memoir in a jolly hockey sticks idiom, punctuated by gruesome and pathetic anecdotes of the ‘real crime’ genre, first published in 1954.  There were moments when it felt voyeuristic to read on, but there were also insights into how people struggled with their daily jobs through the Blitz – trying to black out, bearing to work in bomb blasted windowless premises, making instant calculations of inconvenience versus risk when the sirens went, coping with a London ‘particular’ in total darkness, the pronounced hatred for the doodlebugs, the description of war weariness as a chronic sickness, still endemic in the population years after 1945.

There’s plenty of humour.  I liked the description of the Free French potential boyfriend moodily reciting Verlaine and wondering why Lefebure preferred a post mortem to his company.  Some of the comedy is grim (look away now if you are sensitive): carrying a victim of infanticide in a suitcase through London and wondering what to say if officials checking for black market goods ask you to open the case.  I shall always now think of Kent as a platonic county (very flat, Kent).  And a handy tip from the East End if you feel you must take heroic measures and attempt to revive the newly dead:  apply a hot flat iron to the chest …



Exploring a local town I found a strange little enclave:


Off a busy and perfectly ordinary suburban road, three or four small unmade roads, patched with gravel and old bricks, strung with skeins of potholes, full of water from the recent rain.  The best was a narrow lane which looked as if a handful of buildings had been thrown down at random once every half century for the last two hundred and fifty years.  Stone, brick, corrugated iron, wood, concrete, startlingly smart or practically derelict: there were houses, tiny unnamable bolt holes, bungalows, workshops, ancient cottages, weedy or beautifully groomed front gardens, yards, verges, courtyards,  imperceptibly morphing into the roadway, or neatly fenced.  Was the neighbourhood going down or being gentrified?  Were the houses lived in by locals or were they second homes?  Were the owners rich or poor, young or old?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an utterly unclassifiable place.

Fractious or factious?



This was visiting the past in more ways than one.  I revised placidly through the sections.  It was a good digest of a long, varied period, and must have required serious reading and very good organisational skills from Dan Jones.  It kept my attention to the end, yet it was somehow lacking in zip.  I think there was a persistent failure to marshal the mots justes, so that it was difficult even to pick out typos:  did the text say ‘fractious’ when Jones meant ‘factious’? Or did he and his editor not really know the difference?  Neither adjective seemed to add value to the sentence.  Over 636 pages, this degraded perspicuity, and wit was out of the question.

Here are some who did it better:

agincourt edward sicily

I’m carping.  But all the best titles end up bulged with book marks, and I am sad to report that The Plantagenets didn’t have a single one.

PS if an ad appears on a post, can someone kindly tell me what it is?  Just checking!



Early this morning autumn announced itself with a distinct chill, a violet sky, a single bolt of lightning and a downpour.


In view of this, I oiled the greenhouse door, the garage door, the conservatory door and the porch door.  Then the garage.  Some items finally pensioned off to the rubbish; some tidied up; some items I swear I’ve never seen before and never purchased; tangles of cobwebs stuck to the broom; dead leaves swept out of corners; dust from the decaying concrete floor rising; spiders rushing hither and yon and dropping from the ceiling.  The atmosphere intensified:  incipient hysteria and WD40.